PACIFIC OCEAN --
Helicopters carrying Company I Marines from an oceangoing ship flew 115 miles inland to Twentynine Palms, Calif., where the riflemen performed a daytime live-fire training raid Sept. 4.
Pilots of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 (Reinforced) – the aviation combat element of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit – flew the raiders from the amphibious assault ship Makin Island off Southern California’s coast to a range at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms.
“Training helps sharpen our skills and allows us the ability to conduct any mission at a moment’s notice,” said Cpl. Charles D. West, a squad leader with Company I.
The rifle company is one of three in Battalion Landing Team 3/1, the unit’s ground combat element.
Machine gunners provided fire support for the maneuver element, which moved toward an objective to capture a role player acting as a suspected terrorist, according to West, 22, who hails from Rockford, Ill.
“The Marines are prepared for deployment,” said Capt. Matt McGirr, who hails from Buffalo, N.Y., and serves as Company I’s commanding officer. “They were able to pull off a company-level long-range helo raid from ship-to-shore, with live fire and minimal rehearsal, with great success.”
Marines with the squadron set up a forward arming and refueling point in Barstow, Calif., allowing CH-46E Sea Knights, CH-53E Sea Stallions, UH-1Y Venoms, AH-1Z Vipers and AV-8B Harriers to fly inland and cover the distance from sea to objective.
The unit – scheduled to deploy this fall to the Western Pacific and Middle East regions – began a sea-based exercise Sept. 1, the second aboard amphibious ships since becoming a complete Marine air-ground task force in May.